Tribunal unconvinced by adviser’s heart problems
A mortgage adviser who nearly died after a heart attack has lost an appeal against the cancellation of his permissions by the FSA.
The City watchdog issued a final notice last year against Athanass Stefanopoulos for failure to pay his regulatory fees, but the adviser told the Upper Tribunal that this was due to ill-health, reduced business activities and his ideological objections to the FSA.
The documents from the Upper Tribunal showed Mr Stefanopoulos suffered a heart attack in 2005 and was in hospital for eight weeks.
In 2007, he had another heart attack and was in hospital for three weeks.
The tribunal heard that since August 2005, Mr Stefanopoulos, 67, had repeatedly failed to pay fees and levies and had failed to comply with the terms of a settlement agreement with the FSA in 2009.
The tribunal ruled: “While it is undoubtedly true that Mr Stefanopoulos has had serious and continuing health problems from July 2005 until comparatively recently, we agree with the FSA that this cannot excuse his failure to pay amounts due throughout the period 2005 to 2011.
“Nor does the financial crisis, which started in 2008 and caused a reduction in his business until 2011, explain why Mr Stefanopoulos failed to pay the 2005 and 2006 charges on time.
“We consider that the repeated failure to pay shows a lack of adequate human and (although the FSA did not advance this argument) financial resources.
“Even in 2011, when Mr Stefanopoulos sought to assure us that business had improved, he was six weeks late in paying the fees and levies.
“The consistent pattern of behaviour strongly suggests that the failure to pay fees on time was deliberate and Mr Stefanopoulos admitted as much when he said in evidence that he had de-prioritised the fees payable to the FSA.”
Speaking about the ordeal last year, Mr Stefanopoulos said: “I have been suffering from heart problems for a while, but when I had a major heart attack in 2007 the doctors had to use electric shock to bring me back to life. It was that bad, and while recovering, I was harassed by the FSA. The way it chased me was disgusting and added so much stress and pressure on me at a time when I needed compassion. It should not be allowed to do this.”
Derek Bradley, chief executive of advisory portal PanaceaIFA, said: “This is a very sad case and although it could perhaps have been handled better this probably is covered under ‘fit and proper’ rules. The fit being health, the proper being non-payment of fees.
“Regulation does not come with a cuddle or a kiss to make it better. It comes as former prime minister Tony Blair once said in the form of a ‘clunking great fist’.”